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UEFA: Women’s soccer in Europe could reach €686M in annual value by 2033

(Daniela Porcelli/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Women’s soccer is expected to grow rapidly in Europe over the next decade, with UEFA projections saying its annual value could reach €686 million by 2033.

In an UEFA report published Tuesday titled “The Business Case for Women’s Football,” the governing body for the sport in Europe outlined the commercial potential of the women’s game, particularly at the club and league level. UEFA also provided recommendations for leagues and national associations to realize that potential.

“This report provides all of our stakeholders with a clear understanding of the benefits of investing in the women’s game, and provides them with clear rationale for increasing that investment,” said Girogio Marchetti, UEFA’s deputy general secretary.

Women’s soccer in Europe is coming off a record-breaking Euros tournament that brought in a record attendance of 574,000 and more than 300 million viewers worldwide.

Host country England’s response to the tournament provides a window into the possibilities for growth: The Lionesses’ 2-1 win over Germany in the sold-out final became the most-watched women’s game ever in the UK, and days after the victory, tickets to an October friendly between England and the USWNT at Wembley Stadium sold out in 24 hours.

A total of 162 clubs, 42 leagues and 11 commercial partners were involved in making the report, which offered key findings about where the women’s game stands now. Among the findings:

  • There are already 144 million fans of women’s soccer across Europe, and that number is increasing. The UEFA estimates that total could more than double by 2033 to 328 million fans.
  • Almost 1 in 3 fans of the women’s game are new to the sport.
  • The annual value of women’s soccer sits at €116 million, including matchday revenue, sponsorship and media rights. That could grow to €686 million in the next 10 years, per UEFA projections.
  • Matchday revenue sits at €12 million, but projections show potential for a twelvefold increase to €135 million. While 74 percent of clubs report giving away tickets for free, 95 percent of fans have said they would be willing to pay.

UEFA’s recommendations for growth fall into five key themes:

  • Developing strategies and business plans.
  • Raising standards and professionalism.
  • Building a sustainable ecosystem.
  • Increasing visibility and strengthening audience engagement.
  • Building on the unique strengths of the women’s game.

As noted in these recommendations, limited visibility of women’s soccer remains a barrier to entry. Of those who do not follow women’s soccer, 37 percent cited lack of coverage as an obstacle. Additionally, 52 percent of clubs said visibility is a key factor in driving the game’s development.

“Visibility must be a priority for the game,” said Emma Barsan, women’s football development manager for the Romanian Football Federation. “We need more games on TV, more marketing by clubs to leverage their brands and more player visibility in the media generally.”

That reality is further driven home by this statistic: 66 percent of fans who do not watch women’s football said they would start watching if games were easier to find.

“Women’s football is on an incredibly exciting trajectory, with growth being seen across nearly every metric and across all of our stakeholders across Europe,” said Nadine Kessley, UEFA’s chief of women’s football. “The potential of the women’s game is limitless and we believe we are on course to take women’s football to heights that were unimaginable just a few years ago.

“As this report shows, now is the time to capitalize on the momentum we have created together, now is the time to get involved, now is the time to invest.”